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Category Archives: Culture

How do people view the Bible?

Do people still read the Bible? Do people still believe the Bible? These questions and others are answered in the latest research from the Barna Group in “The State of the Bible: 6 Trends for 2014.” This year’s research reveals six trends in Bible engagement: from the Bible’s continued role as a cultural icon, to increased digital Bible reading, to a rise in skepticism toward Scripture, particularly among Millennials. Regardless of whether you are discouraged or encouraged, the results help to define the attitudes and trends of the society in which we live and are called to minister.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2014 in Culture, News stories

 

More than a codebook for behavior

Dr. Albert Mohler has written another thought provoking article entitled, “Moralism is Not the Gospel (But many Christians think it is).” He points out that moralism is the belief that the gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior. Moralism treats the Bible as simply a codebook for human behavior. In essence, it is a gospel of self-improvement. Mohler’s insights are similar to what Dallas Willard expressed when he pointed out that many Christians pursue a doctrine of sin management rather than true holiness (see chapter 2 in his book, The Divine Conspiracy).

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2014 in Books, Culture, Spiritual disciplines

 

Bibles & Cell phones

Bible-and-coffeeI wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phones?

What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?

What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?

What if we flipped through it several times a day?

What if we used it to receive messages from the text?

iphone 2What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it?

What if we gave it to kids as gifts?

What if we used it as we traveled?

What if we used it in case of an emergency?

What if we upgraded it to get the latest version?

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2014 in Bible Study, Culture

 

Reversing a decision; Restoring convictions

After facing heavy backlash for their original decision, “World Vision Reverses Decision To Hire Christians in Same-Sex Marriages.” Their letter of announcement opened with this paragraph.

Today, the World Vision U.S. board publicly reversed its recent decision to change our employment conduct policy. The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman.

Good for them. Their letter shows humility and brokenness. But you have to wonder what they were thinking when they made the decision in the first place. Did they think the evangelical community would not object? Now the question is, will they hold to this conviction once the gay community starts pushing back for reversing the decision. I’m guessing the story isn’t over yet.

 

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in Culture, News stories

 

What to do with World Vision?

Now that World Vision has decided to allow employees to engage in same sex marriages, how should Christians respond? Should we continue to support the organization financially? Should we cancel our support and move it to Compassion International or Food for the Hungry? What is a thinking Christian to do? These are the questions addressed in Matthew Lee Anderson’s thoughtful post, “On whether Christians should keep supporting World Vision.” He examines the issues from several angles and proposes some solutions. Thanks go to Tim Challies for posting the links. Well worth reading and considering prayerfully.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in Culture, News stories

 

When the pursuit of unity might lead to compromise

“World Vision: Why We’re Hiring Gay Christians in Same-Sex Marriages” -

World Vision’s American branch will no longer require its more than 1,100 employees to restrict their sexual activity to marriage between one man and one woman.

Abstinence outside of marriage remains a rule. But a policy change announced Monday [March 24] will now permit gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages to be employed at one of America’s largest Christian Charities.

Click on the link above to read the five page article in Christianity Today.

“Franklin Graham Statement on World Vision” -

“I was shocked today to hear of World Vision’s decision to hire employees in same-sex marriages. The Bible is clear that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Click on the link above to read the full statement

“On World Vision and the Gospel” -

World Vision, an evangelical relief organization, announced today that they would now hire persons who are in same-sex marriages. The organization said, further, that this was no capitulation, just a recognition that some groups supporting World Vision have differing views on sex and marriage.

This is no surprise, on one level. The constellation of parachurch evangelical ministries founded after World War II have been running headlong, with some notable exceptions, toward the very mainline liberalism to which they were founded as alternatives. Some think if we can just barter away Christian orthodoxy fast enough we can catch the wave of that Presbyterian Church (USA) church growth boom.

But here’s what’s at stake. This isn’t, as the World Vision statement (incredibly!) puts it, the equivalent of a big tent on baptism, church polity, and so forth.

Click on the link above to read the full explanation from Russell D. Moore

WOW! On a personal level, I find World Vision’s announcement surprising, shocking, and saddening. I wonder what my friends who work there think of the decision. Time will tell what impact this decision will have on their ministry and on the Christian community at large.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2014 in Culture, News stories

 

Connecting people to Christ via social media

Yesterday, two guest couples checked out our church. One couple hailed from North Carolina. They were visiting friends in Three Rivers and looking for a church to attend while in our area. They Googled “expository preaching” and found First Central. They visited our website, listened to some of my sermons, and came eager “to hear the word preached.” I jokingly remarked, “That’s a scary thought. You listened to my sermons and still wanted to come.”

Another couple moved to Springfield last fall from Denver, CO. I remarked that Denver was my home town and we spent a few minutes talking about the city. They wanted to be closer to family members in the Boston area. They commented on my “beautiful family with adult children,” which indicated they visited our website. My wife, Carol, talked with them after the service and learned it has been a hard winter for them. They came from a large church with a traditional style of worship, hymns, and choir. They are looking for a similar type of church. They also remarked to Carol about how helpful our church website was.

We are hearing more stories that people do not search for churches in the Yellow Pages or newspaper. They Google and check out the church’s online presence (website, Facebook) before stepping foot on our campus. While we are doing a good job now, as evidenced by these two couples checking us out, we need to be even more mindful and intentional as we move into the future.

 

Can evangelicals and Mormons unite in dangerous times?

Can evangelical Christians and Mormons become co-belligerents against a common enemy? Can Southern Baptists and Mormons work together to combat a secular worldview?

These are the questions addressed by Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in an address given yesterday at Brigham Young University. His address is entitled, “Strengthen the things that remain: Human dignity, human rights, and human flourishing in a dangerous age.”  At the heart of his address is the central truth, “Men have forgotten God.” As a result, we have developed a secular worldview that relativizes morality and “actually undermines the very values that the prophets of the secular age claim to cherish and preserve — human dignity, human rights, and human flourishing.”

In his conclusion, Dr. Mohler makes the following statement.

In the Book of Revelation [3:2] we find the letter from the Lord Jesus Christ to the Church at Sardis. He commands that church to “strengthen the things that remain,” and those words certainly fit the challenges of our own culture and our own times. Without hesitation, we do our best to strengthen the things that allow and provide for human flourishing, that bear witness to human dignity, and that undergird human rights. We bear witness to the truth that these good things are not our own achievement or the result of our social experimentation, but are instead gifts of a sovereign and loving God, who brings himself glory and blesses his human creatures with these good gifts.

The task of those now living is to defend these truths in a time of danger — and defend them we must and we will. But we are not called merely to defend them, but to fulfill them and to receive them and to find our joy in them. This means that our task is not only to defend marriage, but to live that commitment before the watching world. Our task is not only to point to the dignity due every member of the human family at every stage of development, but to defend the defenseless and to work for the affirmation of this dignity in everyone — from the elderly to the infirm to the child with Down syndrome. We are not only called to defend human rights but to contend for them, and to insist that these rights are non-negotiable only because our Creator endowed us with these rights, and allows no negotiation.

When I was with you last October, I said something that got picked up by media around the world. I said that I believe that we will not go to heaven together, but we might well go to jail together. That was last October. That was four months and a few days ago. Since then, federal courts in your own state have ruled that your legal prohibitions of both same-sex marriage and polygamy are unconstitutional. Since that time, the President of your church has been summoned to appear in a secular court in London. Since that time, just over one hundred days ago, so much has changed.

Civil and criminal penalties have recently been leveled against bakers, photographers, and florists who could not in good conscience participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony. Erotic liberty is in the ascent and religious liberty is in peril.

We may go to jail sooner even than we thought.

This is why our conversation is really important, and why we need to stand together on so many urgent concerns. Most importantly, we are now called to defend religious liberty for each other, so that when they come for you, we are there, and so that when they come for us, you are there. We are learning anew what the affirmation of religious liberty will demand of us in this dangerous age.

Whether or not you agree with his conclusions, Dr. Mohler will make you think.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2014 in Culture, News stories, Theology

 

A sign of the times?

A recent headline helps explain how we have gotten off track. Go Figure: Facebook Read Daily More Than Bible gives a statistical view of the popularity of the internet versus Scripture.

Facebook’s numbers are epic. More Americans check Facebook daily than read the Bible and it has more monthly users worldwide than most continents have people.

Facebook, which celebrates its 10th anniversary Tuesday, says worldwide it has 757 million daily active users. Of those 19 percent are in the U.S. and Canada, so that’s more than 143 million people checking Facebook daily.

The Bible used to be the go-to for statistics about reading, pre-digital age. A 2006 CBS News poll found 15 percent of U.S. adults read the Bible or other religious texts daily. There are about 267 million adults in the U.S. and Canada. That means about 40 million people reading the Bible daily.

40 million people in the USA and Canada read the Bible every day as opposed to 143 million people in the USA and Canada checking Facebook. Our values are more influenced by friends and culture than by God’s Word. Is it any wonder we struggle with the problems we face?

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2014 in Culture, Facebook, News stories

 

Celebrate Life!

Today, January 22, marks the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision handed down by the Supreme Court legalizing abortion. Rather than focus on the negative aspects of that decision, we encouraged the people of our church, First Central Bible Church, to celebrate the Sanctity of Human Life. Using the word ACTS as an acrostic, here are some suggestions how you can celebrate life:

Adoration – Read Psalm 139 and meditate on the uniqueness of life. Take time to praise God for the magnificence of his creation.

Confession – Confess the sins of our nation; we have not honored God as the Creator and we have denied his sovereignty over our relationships, over life and over death.

Thanksgiving – Give thanks for God’s grace, his mercy, and his loving-kindness.

Supplication – Intercede for those who are suffering the pain of guilt and remorse following an abortion and ask God to bring healing to their lives. Pray that God would cause our nation to seek and honor Him. Ask God for wisdom on how you can reach out to a hurting world searching for answers.

For more information on the critical issues surrounding abortion and euthanasia, contact the Springfield Pregnancy Care Center, 704 Sumner Avenue, Springfield, MA 01108, (413) 732-2006 or Pioneer Valley Region Massachusetts Citizens for Life, P.O. Box 96, 109 Center Street, Ludlow, MA 01056, (413) 583-5034.

 
 
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